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Autoimmune Diseases: Types, Facts & Information

  • Synopsis: Information on the two types of autoimmune diseases organ specific and non organ specific from an over-active immune response of the body.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases arise from an abnormal immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body (autoimmunity). Your body's immune system protects you from disease and infection. But if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Autoimmune diseases can affect many parts of the body. The exact cause of autoimmune disorders is unknown. One theory is that some micro-organisms (such as bacteria or viruses) or drugs may trigger changes that confuse the immune system.

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Our bodies have an immune system that protects us from disease and infection. But if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks itself by mistake.

Normally the immune system's army of white blood cells helps protect the body from harmful substances, called antigens. Examples of antigens include bacteria, viruses, toxins, cancer cells, and foreign blood or tissues from another person or species. The immune system produces antibodies that destroy these harmful substances.

Autoimmune diseases arise from an over-active immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body. In other words, the body attacks its own cells. This may be restricted to certain organs (e.g. in thyroiditis) or involve a particular tissue in different places (e.g. Goodpasture's disease which may affect the basement membrane in both the lung and the kidney).

Autoimmune disorders are classified into two types, organ-specific (directed mainly at one organ) and non-organ-specific (widely spread throughout the body).

An autoimmune disorder may result in:

An autoimmune disorder may affect one or more organ or tissue types. Areas often affected by autoimmune disorders include:

Nearly 79% of autoimmune disease patients in the USA are women. Also they tend to appear during or shortly after puberty. It is not known why this is the case, although hormone levels have been shown to affect the severity of some autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

The treatment of autoimmune diseases is typically with immuno-suppression - medication which decreases the immune response.

Autoimmune disorders can also have flare-ups, when they get worse, and remissions, when symptoms get better or disappear. Treatment depends on the disease, but in most cases one important goal is to reduce inflammation. Sometimes doctors prescribe corticosteroids or other drugs that reduce your immune response.

Treatments your doctor suggests will depend on your disease and symptoms. Types of treatments include:

Many people take medicines to reduce the immune system's abnormal response. These are often called immunosuppressive medicines. Examples include corticosteroids (such as prednisone) and non-steroid drugs such as azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate, sirolimus, or tacrolimus.

Quick Facts: Types of Autoimmune Diseases

There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune Diseases Include:
Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis
Addison's disease
Alopecia areata
Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
Autoimmune hepatitis
Autoimmune inner ear disease
Bullous pemphigoid
Celiac disease
Chagas disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Crohns Disease
Dermatomyositis
Diabetes mellitus type 1
Endometriosis
Goodpasture's syndrome
Graves' disease
Guillain-Barre syndrome
Hashimoto's disease
Hidradenitis suppurativa
Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
Interstitial cystitis
Lupus erythematosus
Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
Morphea Suspected
Multiple sclerosis
Myasthenia gravis
Narcolepsy
Neuromyotonia
Pemphigus Vulgaris
Pernicious anaemia
Polymyositis
Primary biliary cirrhosis
Rheumatoid arthritis
Schizophrenia
Scleroderma
Sjagren's syndrome
Temporal arteritis
Ulcerative Colitis
Vasculitis
Vitiligo
Wegener's granulomatosis


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